Bullet Wisdom

I am an Active Duty Officer in the US Army. I am a Husband, father, writer, hunter, gamer, and SOLDIER. This blog is a forum for my many hobbies as well as my random musings.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Homeowners Association Seizes Deployed Soldier's Home

Illegally I might add. There is no grey area in the federal law, the Servicemember's Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Okay first, what happened, courtesy the Dallas Morning News:

"A soldier serving in Iraq lost his Frisco home to foreclosure over late homeowners association dues, renewing a debate over the power of HOAs in Texas.

The case, which has boiled over to involve a federal judge, a publicist and death threats, began when Michael and May Clauer lost their $315,000 home to foreclosure in May 2008 after falling behind on their association dues.

The Heritage Lakes Homeowners Association was initially owed $977.55 and sent multiple notices by certified mail demanding payment. All went unanswered, said David Margulies, spokesman for the association and its management company, Select Management.

The problem, according to a lawyer for the Clauers, was that Michael Clauer – U.S. Army National Guard Capt. Michael Clauer – was deployed to Iraq.

His wife, suffering from depression over her husband's absence, had let mail pile up and didn't open any of the certified letters. May Clauer and her parents owned the house mortgage-free."

This is recent news, as in this week-recent. My brother lives in Frisco. It's a great community with wonderful neighborhoods and people. When my mother told me about this story, my blood immediately boiled. Civilians do not have an appreciation for the amount of stress placed on military spouses during their loved-one's deployment.

The good news, and I guarantee this, is that the Homeowners Association (HOA) is going to get hammered by the Servicemember's Civil Relief Act. The SCRA is the federal law protecting deployed Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines from in-absentia legal proceedings, including foreclosure. There is no shelter or exemption from the SCRA. It's punitive, meant to discourage folks from taking advantage of servicemembers not present to defend themselves.

That the HOA contacted the 'military' to inquire about Captain Clauer's status is preposterous. Who'd they call? The 1-800 military-status hotline? The Department of the Army? The local National Guard Armory? I can only imagine the HOA squealing with glee when some Private Snuffee sitting behind a CQ desk told them he'd never heard of the guy. Somehow, they allegedly got hold of a memorandum stating the guy was no longer on Active Duty. Don't get me started on how easy it is to check a Soldier's status by simply checking Army Knowledge Online.

But guess what, it doesn't matter. No matter what excuse the HOA's spokesperson spins, there are NO provisions for administrative errors or mistakes in the SCRA. The HOA will get slammed, the buyer will lose his money, and the military family will keep their home.

The Federal judge has ordered all parties sit down and come to an agreement on ownership. I'll update everyone on this story when I find out more. Frankly, I hope CPT Clauer sues the HOA right out of business.

The HOA is in full damage control-mode. They hired a spokesperson. They've put their story out there, but no degree of spin-doctoring will protect the HOA from public backlash. No matter how legally-right they thought they were, this is a monstrous public relations FAIL. Their only acceptable course of action is to hand the family back the keys, reimburse the buyer, and say, 'Our bad.' But even if the want to do that, chances are the military will get involved and assist the family in their suit. There has to be substantial punitive damages. We must discourage this type of activity. It should be public, it should be expensive, and it should send a message.

Don't mess with deployed Soldiers, ever.


9 comments:

dannigrrl said...

What a sad, stupid thing to have to go through. Definitely keep us updated. I'd love to see how this plays out.

Seleste said...

Wow. Just wow. Even the fact that they can foreclose over a debt of less than a thousand dollars is ridiculous. That's not even taking the soldier's deployment into account.

That they did this to a family dedicated to the support and protection of our country is simply disgusting.

Bektold said...

I have a major problem with how HOAs do business in this state. It's beyond ridiculous that they can forclose on a $318,000 home for less than a thousand dollars worth of unpaid fees. They should be going to small claims court with this stuff, not taking people's homes away.

The fact that this has happened to a solider's family is disgusting. But it shouldn't happening to anyone's family at all.

Falcata Times said...

They're seriously taking the michael with this one.

I hope that they do get a serious load of legalese and lawsuits thrown at them. Mind you is it a good idea to annoy a guy with access to all sorts of military hardware?

Anonymous said...

The PR spokesperson for Heritage Lakes HOA has said this HOA community is very Patriotic. I have checked and some of the street names are Patriotic, Banner, Constitution,
Republic...This Pr person has also told reports that "this HOA did not know that Capt. Michael Clauer was enlisted and that they are not mind readers". Well, I am embarrassed for them for not knowing that someone right down the street from them was serving in Iraq as a unit commander. Real Patriotic.

Anonymous said...

To the folks of "Bullet Wisdom" - your ass is firmly planted on your nose, or vice versa...

Combatant Status is never made public on the internet - if it is, it's in violation of active duty anonymity.

Secondly, combatants owning a home is always a bad idea. If a commander is worrying about his mortgage, he isn't worrying about his men.

Do we thank Captn. Clauer for endangering our troops while he tended to a non-essential personal issue stateside?

I hope he gets his home back, I do question why all HOA queries were ignored by his wife.

Anonymous said...

Here's a little "wisdom" for you.

1.)Keep your personal issues squared away.
2.)The UNIFORM CODE OF MILITARY JUSTICE applies to Reservers also. "Living beyond one's means"-illegal in any military. Avoiding communication with creditors, always interpreted as fraud under the UCMJ.
3.)Threatening HOA members and neighbors - bad idea. All soldiers need the support of the society around them.
4.)If an officer's wife has mental health issues, that officer is held responsible for any resultant outcome (also Texas law).

ALWAYS REMEMBER: All legal correspondence requires communication. Refraining from either role as "sender" or "reciever" leaves interpretation open in the absence of information. Assuming guilt on either side does not resolve what is largely known in the military vernacular as: SNAFU...

Anonymous said...

Ken,

May Clauer's mental illness is not helped with your paranoid line of reasoning that her neighbor's & HOA conspired to take away her house.

The entire story is sad, the remedy lies in a sensible appeal. Threatening the HOA, belittling the Clauer's neighbors, passing along personal responsibility while entwining other soldier's accountability diminishes the Clauer's appeal. I wish the world was as "Black/White" as you surmise; it isn't.

Ken said...

I support a sensitive appeal through the Federal courts where I am certain enforcement of the SCRA will produce a favorable result for the Clauer family.

Two anonymous posts from the same IP in Frisco in two days. I'm searching for my paranoid association implying a conspiracy between the HOA and the family's neighbors and I can't find one. As per your assertion that the officer is responsible, true.

However, Federal law, a.k.a. the SCRA, supersedes state law. Any foreclosure without following specific statutory procedures, regardless of circumstances, is a violation. Had Select Management sought relief from SCRA according to the law, they'd have a leg to stand on, but they didn't, and they don't.

At this point they've elected to execute a smear campaign against the family by parading the bills, debts, and the family's difficulties into the public domain. Classy.

To the anonymous individual that servicemembers as combatants should not be homeowners.

Ridiculous.

This is my last word on the subject as my work load and training schedule is picking up. Thanks everyone for the comments and participation. It's time to get back to work and writing!